We all have a very specific notion of what the holiday season should be like.
A period of quiet reflection, of warmth and love. A time of looking back at the year gone by… and ahead, into the future. And that’s what we do. Both privately and professionally we look back on the past twelve months and take stock. Our customers, employees, business partners and colleagues all over the world have contributed to what turned out to be a successful year – despite all the adversity. The thought of the impending holiday season warms our hearts, and suddenly we feel the need to say thank you and to convey our sincere appreciation and kind wishes to the people who are by our sides every working day in one way or another – preferably in their own language, to make them feel appreciated.
But there is a great risk of something going horribly wrong…
It’s true: Christmas greetings aren’t just allowed; they’re needed.
This is particularly true for companies who can use this as an opportunity to maintain existing business relationships, to revive dormant ones or to garner attention.
What may seem like a minor, uncomplicated social obligation can be fraught with pitfalls if the recipient happens to be at home in a different language and culture. Of course it can be tempting to just use a free online service and some computer-generated translations to cook up a few standardised lines, but it’s not always the best option.
Phrases that have become standard in the German-speaking region can’t always be easily transferred to other countries – certainly not literally. For example, the German emphasis on the holiday season being a time of contemplation doesn’t necessary translate well to other cultures. In many Romance languages, contemplation is seen as something reserved for monks living sad and lonely lives behind monastery walls – and certainly not something to engage in during the Christmas season, which they view as a time of enjoyment, exuberance and excess.
In many countries, the feast of love is celebrated on February 14, while December 25 is sometimes seen as a feast for the children, sometimes a feast of joy.
Outside of the German-speaking countries, nobody “slides” into the New Year.
Unless it’s by accident, because someone had too much to drink or forgot to put on their snow tyres. In short, a literal translation can turn out to be quite embarrassing.
Aside from the text itself, the form and timing of the message also need to be considered carefully.
In some countries, Christmas messages are seen as an oddity or are only sent privately, while greetings to or from a business are sent on January 1. In other countries, it’s generally considered polite to send Christmas letters and cards at the beginning of December. And of course, in many places it’s seen as unseemly to combine a Christmas message with a reference to economic difficulties or even price increases – no matter how elegantly they are phrased.
It’s details like these that can make all the difference between baffled confusion and a message that binds customers, and translation software is simply not capable of providing the best fit for the intended recipient and the customs of their country. That’s why working with a language mediator who is familiar with the country and its culture and who can offer companies, cultural institutions and private individuals suitable advice and support is simply indispensable, especially in these remaining weeks of the year… and can serve to prevent many a devastating faux pas.
Why does the holiday season always sneak up on us? …
We’re happy to help you right up to that proverbial “last minute” to put your international communication in the best kind of Christmas spirit for your recipients – and to ensure your success in the coming year by sending greeting texts that avoid any potential stumbling blocks. The countdown is running.
JUST ASK US – for finding the right words, your translation agency in Vienna.